Sunday, March 29, 2015

Slow Cooker Chikcen Enchiladas

This is my super-easy slow-cooker chicken enchilada recipe. Now, the enchiladas themselves don't cook in the slow cooker (that would be a goopy mess), but the meat and sauce do. This Southwestern chicken isn't just for enchiladas. It would be perfect for chicken tacos, burritos, Mexican pizza or a chicken taco salad. It would also be great for sandwiches or in a chicken tortilla soup.
Here's what you'll need to make it the meat.
Boneless, skinless chicken thighs,  1 can of Ro-Tel tomatoes, an onion, 4 cloves of garlic, tomato paste, chili powder, ground cumin, oregano plus salt and pepper.  To assemble the enchiladas later you'll need tortillas, cheese and beans if you want them.
Start by chopping the small onion and the garlic.
Put them in a microwave safe container like this Pyrex cup.
Now add 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, a tablespoon of chili powder, 2 teaspoons or cumin and a teaspoon of oregano. Sprinkle with salt and add about a teaspoon of oil. Stir to combine.


Cover with plastic and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir and put back in the microwave for another 30 seconds. It should come out looking like this: You'll really be able to smell the fragrance of the spices. Do not skip this step and dump the aromatics and spices into the slow cooker. It's very important for the flavor.
Salt and pepper the chicken thighs and add them to the slow cooker. You might be tempted to go with chicken breasts, but I don't suggest it. They will dry out.
Add the spice mixture to the chicken.
Then add the can of tomatoes. If you don't like the spice from the Ro-Tel you can just use a 14 ounce can of plain diced tomatoes. My tomatoes were actually frozen. I freeze unused portions of cans in freezer bags and use them at a later date.
Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. When it's done, it will look like this.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the thighs and about half of the tomatoes to a bowl.
Shred the chicken with a fork or spoon. It will pull apart easily.
Now put the remaining liquid and tomatoes from the slow cooker in a blender or food processor. You could also stick an immersion blender in the slow cooker as well.  Don't worry if there's a stray piece of chicken.
Blitz and you'll end up with a nice thickened sauce. Obviously, put the lid on before you turn on the blender. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
Pull out a pan for your enchiladas. I'm using a 9 x9 to hold 5 here.
Coat the bottom with sauce to hold the enchiladas in place.
Use flour or corn tortillas as you prefer.
Start by filling the tortilla with the shredded chicken and tomato mixture.
Add beans, if desired.
Then a sprinkle of cheese. We'll top with more at the end.
Fold it up.

Place in the pan seam-side down. I was careless here and spilled some beans and cheese into the pan.
Tuck them snugly together.
 Spread the rest of the sauce over the enchiladas.
Top with cheese and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Jambalaya: The Freezer, Can and Box Inauthentic Edition

This is my freezer, can and box version of Jambalaya. If you make the authentic version, I do apologize. Navigate quickly away from this quick and easy recipe before it hurts your feelings.

Now for the rest of you, here's how I make what I think is a delicious version of Jambalaya with ingredients from my freezer and pantry shelves.

Here are the ingredients:

From the pantry, you'll need Zatarain's Jambalaya mix, a can of Hunt's Fire Roasted tomatoes (or Ro-Tel tomatoes with chiles if you like spice) and chicken broth.

From the freezer, I have a bag of Kroger's Cajun-style mirepoix mix. It consists of onions, celery and green pepper. If they don't have it in the freezer case where you live, you can always dice up onion, celery and green pepper. I also have a bag of frozen okra. We'll use half a bag of each for this recipe.

My proteins also come from the freezer, but you can always use them fresh. I'm using boneless, skinless chicken thighs (thawed), Andouille- style sausages and raw shell-on deveined shrimp. You can also use the peeled kind. But do use raw shrimp.

Thaw the chicken thighs before you begin or use fresh ones. Take the frozen shrimp and put them in a cup of water with a tablespoon of salt and a tablespoon of sugar. Set aside.

If frozen, thaw the Andouille sausage or defrost for about a minute in the microwave wrapped in a paper towel before slicing. If fresh, just start slicing it into bite-sized chunks. Here I'm using two hot-dog size sausages. You could vary the protein based on the mount of  people you're serving.

Add some oil to a Dutch oven, turn the heat on medium and add the diced sausage.
Cook until the sausages start to brown.
Remove the sausages with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl or on some foil. Pat the chicken thighs dry, then salt and pepper them.  I'm only using two here, but you can add more depending on how many people you're feeding. Add to the hot Dutch oven. While the chicken is cooking, thaw the frozen half-bag of Cajun mirepoix in the microwave and drain off any excess water.
Brown on both sides and then set aside with the sausages.
Add a pat of butter to the hot Dutch oven (totally optional) and then add the Cajun mirepoix mix.

Cook until the vegetables grow soft and start to brown. Add the box of Jambalaya mix into the cooked veggies. You'll start to smell the spices.

Add the canned tomatoes.

Then the frozen okra. Stir well, making sure to scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

Return the chicken and the sausage to the pot. But leave the shrimp alone for now.

Now, add 2 cups of chicken broth to the pot.

Cover and cook on low heat for about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally. While it's cooking, you can add a little flavor to the shrimp if you like, but it's optional.  Remove shrimp from brine and pat dry.You can either peel the shrimp or leave the shells on and have the fun of peeling them while eating the dish. Either way, add some olive oil and a clove of minced garlic to the shrimp. Stir them together and let shrimp marinate while Jambalaya cooks.

After around 30 minutes, most of the liquid will have cooked away. Break the chicken apart into bite-sized pieces with a spoon.
Turn off the heat. That's very important. Otherwise you'll overcook the shrimp.  Nestle the shrimp into the rice. Then cover and let sit for about 10 minutes until the shrimp turns pink.
It should like this when it's finished.

This isn't a particularly hot version of this dish. If you want to add more spice, you can use the Ro-Tel tomatoes and also put in a few dashes of hot sauce. I like to offer hot sauce on the side so everyone can season to taste.